Feeling Lonely at Work

Accountability Organizational culture Well-being

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Key Point: Too many darn people are just lonely at work. The most advanced cultures in organizations are making intentional strides in promoting, measuring, and achieving a much more inclusive environment. This strategy comes from the deep belief that everyone belongs and matters (unless they continuously clash with the organization’s values). When everyone matters and belongs, each person maximizes personal contribution. This workplace philosophy goes way beyond implementing diversity and identity representation. It also extends well beyond respectfully listening to all others. In my view, complete inclusion in our workplace is a leadership priority and involves the conscious commitment to also defeat workplace loneliness and isolation. I find it unacceptable and ironic that organizations now have all the tools of technology, social media and collaboration platforms yet we find too many people lonely at work. And this loneliness is having a material negative impact on employee’s physical/mental health resulting in increased workplace disability. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, studies have linked social isolation to health outcomes such as high blood pressure and obesity, and lonely individuals have also been found to be more prone to depression and suicide.

Social isolation involves a lack of social interaction, contact or meaningful communication with other people. Socially isolated people also tend to have a lack of significant social networks such as family and friends, and hence may not see or talk to other people very often. Social isolation is the first cousin of loneliness. However, lets not confuse loneliness with being alone. Many of us are perfectly content when alone, and solitude is not necessarily linked to loneliness. Loneliness is a feeling of not having one’s social needs met, feeling isolated or feeling alone in a negative way. It is possible to be surrounded by people and have a lot of social interaction and still feel lonely, perhaps because these interactions are low in quality and/or do not lead to feelings of being understood or cared for. 

We need to recognize the signs of workplace loneliness or social isolation. And although there is somewhat of a personal self-accountability for people to want to become engaged and connected, most people do not make the conscious choice to disconnect or become isolated. It often happens like the proverbial frog sitting in turned up heat. Bit by bit, increased lethargy in contributing proactively in work conversation, decreased motivation in seeking companionship, and eventually there is more and more withdrawal. Loneliness and social isolation increases at work and often extends into personal life as well; and vice versa.

Let’s look after and commit to loving each other at work! Yes… That “LOVE” word is about what’s important in life, and what’s important in life is a sense of belonging, being significant, valued and appreciated for our unique imperfect selves.

Character Moves:

  1. If you’re a leader it’s your job to include, nurture, grow and develop your team. If anyone becomes socially isolated, you have a part to play in that.
  2. If you’re a teammate, get to know and include your colleagues. Accept their unique, imperfect selves and connect at a personal level. 
  3. If you’re feeling lonely and socially isolated, regardless of how hard and counterintuitive, reach out and give to someone else. However small of a step, extend and become a contributor. And know it’s more than ok to talk to a professional. If your employer has an employee assistance program, use it. If not, join that church group or others. They have a place for you. 

Included in The Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I work strange hours (5 a.m. to 1 p.m.), and let’s just say that doesn’t bode well to out-of-work socializing. 1 p.m. is not happy hour, and we all have other stuff to do for the rest of the day. A self-proclaimed introverted comic that makes me laugh recently had a bit on “happy hour” and his dislike of it, with the punch line: “We’re done here. Let’s go home!” But truthfully, being able to socialize and grab a drink with clients, customers, co-workers or anyone at work, is a privilege many of us don’t have. If that’s a work perk of yours, don’t take it for granted. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

New ‘C’s’ at Work: Caring, Collaborating, Contributing, Communities

Abundance Collaboration Organizational culture

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Key Point: Advanced collaboration technology like the following Google G Suite applications; G+, Work Groups, Hangouts, Meet, etc., are helping to drive a work renaissance. The BusinessDictionary definition of community is: “Self-organized network of people with common agenda, cause, or interest, who collaborate by sharing ideas, information, and other resources.”

At the company I work for, every Monday and Tuesday we have something called “Hangouts and Spotlights.” For 45-minutes, this virtual video/chat connection attracts people from a dispersed and vast geographical area, all with the common interest of advancing our leadership and culture. Consistently, we have 300 plus people (sometimes as many as 600) attend. I’ve been wondering why we get such consistent interest and participation. Yes, the speakers are interesting, the logistics are well done, and the facilitation is pretty good. However, I believe the primary reason is because the attendees have formed a virtual community. They not only show up for the content, they show up for EACH OTHER. Before the broadcast even starts, the emojis and quips are flying around the chat line. As the speakers engage the participants, the community becomes fully part of the narrative. The group (perhaps unknowingly), has now become the story. The presenting team is vital, but the “stars of the show” are the hundreds that question, provide answers, share their feelings and show their collective care. I wish I could tell you that I knew this would happen before we started. A colleague of mine believed in the initiative and was sure community would happen. I just didn’t get it. Now, I certainly do. 

We know that as humans, we love to solve problems, share ideas, information and support each other. Until recently, developing community in the workplace involved levels of complexity. It usually consisted of some form of face-to-face meeting, and that can be challenging. As much as we love to collaborate, we detest wasting our time. Now, digital collaboration platforms are making community easier and richer in every way. If you have a common interest, a smart phone, Internet access, and an application, you can have a community up and running in minutes (often utilizing full video as well as voice and text). Wow. People don’t need permission. The hierarchy doesn’t need to be involved unless they partake as genuine, and ideally equal contributors. Join and participate from anywhere at any time. And if the community loses its way or value, it simply and virtually disappears. In this world where complexity seems to be dramatically increasing, simplicity rules. 

The hidden and often most-underdeveloped value in organizations is the raw and unleashed value of peer-to-peer power. People have the ideas, solutions, answers and usually the skill we need. Employees’ contribution at every level is most often unfound and contained because the hierarchical structure of command and control, “consciously or unconsciously,” suffocates it. The customer driven urgency and survival needed to provide more value to others at greater speed is now complimented by super networks, smart devices and collaboration/communication software that is finally freeing up and allowing people to contribute as a true community. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Understand how to create and build community within your work place. Find those rich common causes and develop a movement of value for your colleagues. Learn the new collaboration tools and platforms that make community just “work.” Be part of the renaissance that puts peer-to-peer power to the forefront of organizations.

Community in The Triangle, 

Lorne

One Millennial View: I recently heard of an organization that started a new Slack group entitled “healthy snacks” to try and get its fad-diet conscious employees to organize how to make the kitchen more nutritional. Apparently it attracted monstrous attention from the top, all the way down… Everyone either wanted in, or said “good luck with that!” Point is – A topic so simple can bring an entire organization together to discuss, debate, problem solve, and eventually replace jellybeans with the newest Keto-friendly munchies (or whatever). What a time we’re living in. This communal conversation might seem complicated at first, but it’s healthier.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

What If You Were Graduating Now?

Accountability Kindness Purpose

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Key Point: It’s never too late to take convocation advice. Across most North American and European campuses this past month, students regaled in caps and gowns have been listening to keynote speeches from distinguished leaders. Each speaker shared their best advice for that long post academia journey. The baby birds are all being nudged from their nests, propped up by the wise words of “eagles.”

My contention is that it’s never too late to embrace the sage insights shared with graduates. For many of us, taking each May as a renewed opportunity to have a graduation “do over,” and step into the world anew, could be a rather refreshing thought. Who says that convocation wisdom should be reserved for the newbies? And what if we intentionally considered every graduating season as a time to consider stepping out again? I’m in my 60’s, and I’d like to be able to think of myself as that fresh-faced beginner. 

Adam Grant is one of my favorite people, and although we’ve never personally met, I think of him as one of my “thrive people.” I get advice from him all the time through the wonderfully connected world we live in. He is an organizational psychologist who has been repeatedly recognized as Wharton’s top-rated professor. He’s also written multiple New York Times bestsellers, including Give and Take – a must read, that makes the scientific case for why giving leads to success. This year, Grant delivered the commencement speech at Utah State University, where he shared some of the lessons from his years of research and teaching. So if you and I snuck into that ceremony, this is what we would have heard from professor Grant: 

  1. Be giving, abundant, generous AND invest in yourself first.

According to Grant’s research on teachers (as an example), the most effective ones were those that “cared deeply about their students but also did what we’re all supposed to do on airplanes – they secured their oxygen masks before assisting others. ‘They made sure to take care of their own needs first (which included identifying their limits and making sure to get the proper rest), then giving when they could. ‘They felt less altruistic,’ said Grant, ‘but they actually helped more. Their giving was energizing instead of exhausting.'”

  1. Apply grit to the right things; it’s ok to go to plan b, c… Maybe even z. 

Grant’s Advice: “Sometimes, quitting is a virtue. Grit doesn’t mean ‘keep doing the thing that’s failing.’ It means, ‘define your dreams broadly enough that you can find new ways to pursue them when your first and second plans fail.’ I needed to give up on my dream of making the NBA, but I didn’t need to give up on my dream of becoming a halfway decent athlete.”

It is important to find your purpose, apply what you’re good at, embrace what you like to do, define and stay true to your values. Those are the things NOT to quit on.

While being inspired by Grant, I thought I’d share this additional perspective to throw into the convocation message:   

  1. Don’t spend your life making up your mind by getting caught in the world of self-imposed “have to’s.”

This message was inspired by an HBR blog:

“Long ago I worked at a job I didn’t enjoy. It wasn’t a bad job; it was secure and pleasant. I was a success, but the job just wasn’t fulfilling in the ways I wanted. I spent my spare time tinkering with the simulations, research, and writing that still fascinate me. And the more I tinkered, the more I chafed at my job.

One day I complained to someone close to me, who gave me the gift of a question: ‘Then why don’t you quit your job and do what you want instead?’ I know the option of quitting seems obvious. It had occurred to me many times. But that was the first time I heard the ‘then why don’t you’ part.

Why hadn’t I quit? Because I’d wrapped myself in a thicket of ‘have to’s.’ I have to have a steady income. I have to have the respect that comes with a business card from a leading-edge company. I have to, not I want to. Assumptions, beliefs, and habits, not wrong but also not laws of nature that I have to obey.

When I noticed the self-imposed have to’s I could question their influence on my decision. I quit my job the next day. I wanted to live my dreams… I can attest that mañana is especially tempting on agonizing decisions. I was stuck for months on such a decision.

Two things got me unstuck. One was reframing the decision before me. I’d tried but just couldn’t answer, ‘What can I do to cause the outcome I want?’ I switched to ‘What are the best and worst out­comes I can expect?’ I answered that question immediately. I knew the answer was true even though I didn’t like it.

But what really unstuck me was advice from my best friend, a man I’d known for almost 40 years. He said, ‘Don’t spend your life making up your mind.’ He knew what he was talking about. It was our last conversation, three days before he died of leukemia.

Character Moves:

  1. Being generous, abundant and giving more starts with YOU first. Are you doing that or are you caught in the well-intended and sometimes disabling dishonesty of being a self-imposed victim and martyr? The test: The act of giving should be energizing NOT exhausting. 
  2. Have grit on the right stuff and have the guts to quit when your life is being sucked out of you… That only one life, I will remind you. Hanging too long on something that you’re failing at or not enjoying is just dumb. Why would you do that? Is that the right way to show grit? 
  3. Get out of the prickly thicket of self-imposed “have to’s.” What are the best and worst outcomes you can expect if you chose “not to” versus “have to?” Do you really, I mean REALLY, “have to?” Or are you worried about how you and others will judge you? How long will you wait? 

Graduating do over, in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: There are some really valuable lessons here, and I agree that we can treat every May or June as if we’re graduating once again when these great commencement speeches surface. As Millennials, we’re probably in our least “have to” states in our lives, and I’m reminded that if I find myself needing to get out of a prickly thicket, it’s up to me to use the sheers to untangle myself. That’s something that I do “have to.”

– Garrett 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Language That Speaks Our Mind

Accountability Growth mindset Productivity

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Key Point: Phrases and words are often taken for granted. They become almost “throw away” statements. I’m not sure people give much thought to what the words they string together can really say about the way we think. Lately, I’m paying more attention to a couple of phrases or sentences that “irk” or “engage” me.

Here are some “irk” examples: 

“I don’t know what’s going on.” Now, I’ve found myself saying this too. And every time I default to it, I try and give myself a kick in my pants. The phrase is actually pathetic in some ways. Whah whah. How about asking: “How might I find out out what I need to know?” And/or “What can I do make sure I’m in the loop?” Instead of a victimized, powerless, poor “little fella left in the dark,” I better take control to get the info I need when I need it.

“I don’t have any feedback for you.” Really? This is usually a load of B.S. What it often means is: “I don’t want to think that hard;” “I don’t care enough to invest that much energy;” “you don’t or won’t do anything even if I do give you feedback;” “you’ll just get defensive and mad;” etc. Yes, you and I have feedback and we owe it to ourselves and teammates to give it in a respectful, direct, authentic and raw way. Be specific. It’s the caring intent behind feedback that counts more than anything.

“I sent you an email, didn’t you read it?” BFD… You sent me an email. That doesn’t mean anything other than you did. This can be a big CYA and may have little meaning relative to the importance of the message. If it’s vital for someone to know something, I owe it to them and me to be sure they do.

Now, for some “engaging” ones:

“Wouldn’t it be cool if?” Now this phrase is about opening up possibilities. It helps people think big. The CEO of Marvel is big on this, and used it to help his company completely reinvent itself. Wouldn’t it be cool if we all asked ourselves this all the time?

“How might we?” It is so great to see people rally around this phrase. It puts life into what could be. It can be powerfully little or BIG. There is almost no end to the results possible with this phrase. Watch people rally when you ask about things in this way.

“Have you considered?” This phrase frees people up to be abundant versus judgmental. Rather than too soft or too hard, this phrase allows us to expand thinking. It is a way of giving feedback with less pain. It simply asks the question.

Character Moves:

  1. Give thought to the phrases above. Which might you use more of and/or less of? What other phrases or sentences might limit or propel us? Our language really can tell us how we think and behave.

“Wouldn’t it be cool” in The Triangle?

Lorne

One Millennial View: I think I’ve discussed my personal dislike for the phrase, “it is what it is.” And trust me, I’ve heard a LOT of people I respect very much use it. I’m aware it’s pretty common vernacular. But, it is dishonest. What that really seems to mean is, “I surrender.” Now, that said, I still subscribe to the idea that context means a lot more than the language itself, but if we can all just work on getting over the fear and discomfort attached to being genuine, brave, or burdensome, then that would likely benefit us all. Then again, whatever,  it is what it… See?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

How Are YOU Doing?

Books Growth mindset Respect

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Key Point: I want this just to be about YOU. Are you happy with yourself right now? It’s getting towards the first half of the calendar year, and it might be worth a personal “check in.”   I certainly know you and I are are far from perfect. With that caveat, are we generally happy? I’m not asking exclusively whether we are satisfied with the advancement of our skills and relationships, just an honest reflection of our happiness. One reason I’m writing about this, is that lately I’ve heard wonderful people being very hard on themselves. I wonder if they are out of balance by focusing too much on future accomplishments versus gratitude for what they already have and who they are. Are YOU good enough?

Tim Ferriss, well known author, podcaster, etc., has a great new book entitled Tools of Titans. He notes from studying people he highly regards, that there are two parts to self-improvement. However, too many people may define self-improvement and happiness solely by goal achievement. But, Ferriss believes that this is only 50 percent of it. He says, “The other 50 percent is gratitude and appreciating what you already have, not focusing solely on future accomplishments.” There are so many highly successful people who are never satisfied with what they’ve accomplished and it’s unfortunate. Canadian sports psychologist and author Dr. Peter Jensen, tells the country’s Olympians, “if you weren’t good enough before an Olympic medal, you won’t be good enough after.”

Moving forward is always fraught with failure and mistakes. In this context, Ferriss focuses on two things: Skills and relationships. The question he asks himself is, “Even if this fails, are there skills and relationships that I can develop that will carry over into other things?” Ferriss’ philosophy is “failure isn’t failure if you can gain new skills and develop relationships…” This is such a great way to think about life and what we do. Are we always advancing our skills and relationships? If we are doing both, then the concept of failure can be reframed. The people that I see as “stuck” honestly find that they have done little on both fronts. They repeat the same work over and over and hence gain little true/new experience. They essentially repeat the same experience. This concept applies to relationships too. Advancing and growing people are continuously expanding the depth and width of relationships in and outside of work. 

Character Moves:

  1. Implement a daily gratitude journal. I’ve suggested this many times because it works. It fills us up with appreciation and it changes how we feel, creating more self-awareness and hence more happiness.
  2. Based on the wisdom of Adam Grant in Sheryl Sandberg’s recent book, Option B, I  highlighted the importance of also doing contribution journals. Combine 1 and 2 everyday, and I promise you it will increase your happiness and sense of well being. 
  3. Every six months or so, reflect on the new/enhanced skills you’ve added and define the relationships you’ve advanced. Being intentional about both will keep you moving forward.

Being Well in the Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I think Ferriss has a great point, and he’s a guy who has a lot figured out. The journals may also seem like an extra bit of “homework,” but even typing them out in the “notes” app on your smartphone before bed is probably a great exercise. If you’re networking, learning new skills, and strengthening your relationships, that’s the antithesis of failure. But it takes work. Especially as Millennials, we have to be careful… It’s easy to wake up one day and it’s already June, we put things in cruise control back in January and wait, are we even considered Millennials anymore?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis